I can’t believe it’s here!PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

If you preordered Plus or Minus on Kindle or other ebook platforms, it should be delivered to you this weekend. It really is like another baby being born, and I hope everyone who reads it finds encouragement in our words.

Around the ‘net, there were lots of writers posting words worthy of discussion. These are a few of the best.

Lots of bloggers can find plenty of fodder by taking aim at the church. Erin at Holy Hellions discusses making peace with church.

Here in the midwest, it’s been really unseasonably warm lately. Like, the kind of gorgeous weather than makes you believe the Earth must be dying for it to be this nice. But the northeast has been getting pummelled and Zack Hunt shares a simple little gesture that some people did to help the homeless in the cold.

Addie Zierman, upon the imminent closing of A Deeper Story, shares some of her best Deeper Story posts.

Kristen at We Are That Family shares a pretty ordinary looking post with photos of her family cleaning an apartment. But it’s why they are cleaning an apartment, not to mention what this activity does for her family that is so important. I wonder how many of us are really doing family life on purpose. Our families really are at their best, not when we are at ball games or on the lake, but when we are taking time for others.

On the same note, Leigh Kramer discusses the ministry of availability. I don’t know about you, but I have not always been the most available guy to the people near me. In fact, I use the facade of busyness as a measure of my worth. But how valuable am I if I am always busy?

Finally, KC Proctor shares the first part of his “Dad Manifesto.” This guy sleeps five hours a night, starts his day at 4:00 and does all of his personal projects after putting three kids to bed. Guys, we can do it all, if we choose to.

That’s it for me this week. See you later!

Promises, Promises, Promises.

This guy is a complete gamble, not a promise.

This guy is a complete gamble, not a promise.

When things get tough, when life becomes especially uncertain, I have found that a lot of people look for promises that they can rely on.

What I mean is that people turn to the Bible and try to find out what God has promised. What has God guaranteed? What can I hang my hat on while my home is being foreclosed on, or my wife is sick or my career is in trouble or we are trying to conceive a child?

Over the last five years, I found that the infertility world is especially rife with this kind of talk, promise-talk, that is. There is no shortage of books, events or teachers who will make some kind of spiritual sounding promise, tailor-made for your exact situation.

The problem is that God doesn’t make a whole lot of promises, sad to say. And over time, all of the “promises” actually wore us down. They stopped encouraging us and actually made us lose hope. That’s the problem with false promises.

So, when times are difficult, how do we know when a promise is a promise that God has not made?

Continue Reading…

Plus or Minus releases one week from today.

My second book is the product of nearly eighteen months of prayer, planning and preparation.

There were about six months where I had the book on my heart, but I had to also put it on the shelf, so to speak. I had to give Cheri time to get on board, and for her, that means months, not days.

When it came time to find couples to collaborate with us, it was more waiting. I waited, because I was not willing to push to get ahead.

The big critique that people have of our generation is that we want everything, namely, we all want to be famous. And we want it now. 

For me, it’s more about worrying that I have done enough with my life. I worry that I have not accomplished enough, not given enough or exerted enough, not exercised enough influence.

But I am learning that enough is not a destination we reach. Enough is a process we do each day.

There was only one day on which I could say “I finished my book.” But there were many days when I could say, “I wrote enough and I am exhausted.”

When our generation pushes and pushes to try to reach all of our goals today, we risk cracking their fragile little shells. Dreams need care and nurturing over a long period of time. They cannot be reached overnight. The way a hen warms an egg day after day until a chick hatches. Or the way we feed Calder night after night, to watch him grow. He cannot do all of his growing all in one day. But we can say he grew enough today. 

Don’t rush your dreams today. Nurture them. Care for them. Pray for them. Treat them gently. If you want to write a book, write enough words today, but don’t pressure yourself to finish. If you are raising a child, take baby steps. If you are building a business, celebrate small victories.

egg

We will all get there together.

Was it a short week?

Around blog-land, it seems like it was. Most of us took the day off for the King holiday. A few of us watched the POTUS on Tuesday. (I did watch some, but I couldn’t make it to the end. Nine o’clock is the new midnight in the Appling house.)

But around the different corners of my blog universe, it amazes me how there always emerge some fresh ideas that encourage or challenge me. Here’s what fueled me this week.

Across the Ocean

It is hard to believe that a year ago, I was in Africa. It is a memory that is still fresh in my mind. Photos of children’s faces hang in my hallway to remind me every day of my responsibility to the least of these.

I went with World Help on a mission to get an infant rescue center funded, and I am so happy to say that today, three new infant rescue centers have been fully funded. When at full capacity, they will pull abandoned children out of the slums and put them on a path to a bright and happy life. I cannot think of many things more gratifying than that.

In My Blog Feed

By far, the most interesting, challenging and universally applicable thing I read this week had nothing directly to do with me. It’s about weight and body image. Now I’ve never had a struggle with weight (though I can’t seem to get back to my high school size anymore), but what Lindsey at The Fearless Experiment writes in Why God Doesn’t Care How Big Your Butt Is…But He Might Care Why is absolutely relevant to every human struggle. Stop looking at the surface of things. Start asking why.

Another word that has always challenged me as a shy extrovert, Hannah Brencher talks about the challenging joy of staying in community.

Emily Wierenga says that we have put pastors on a pedestal, and now they must be taken down.

Finally, Sarah Mae talks about the importance of writing from your own well. When I started Plus or Minus, my publisher thought it would be about 40,000 words. I was scared to death to tell him it had actually become 60,000 words. I was afraid I’d be required to gut everything. But some stories we think are going to take 70k words only need 50k. The point is, we don’t have to make our stories something they are not. We cannot generate an extra 20,000 words to fluff up ourselves, nor do we need to leave out the dark parts just to make ourselves fit. (Plus, Sarah is part of a new venture called Author Launch, which is run by some very near and dear friends of mine.)

That’s what interested, challenged and fueled me. See you next week.

Many of us had the day off on Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said "free at last," right?

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said “free at last,” right?

MLK Day is a nice little holiday that has absolutely no social obligations attached to it. For those of us who have the day off, it truly is a day off. No family gatherings to attend. No meals to prepare. No gifts to buy.

On the other hand, the day that commemorates one of the greatest Americans in history has been kind of reduced to a throw-away holiday. It’s a day to sleep in and maybe save 20% on a new mattress, which I’m not so sure does justice for a man who gave his life in the name of equality and justice.

Despite all of our talk of “progress,” “acceptance” and “equality” I have become convinced that our culture in many ways has gone backwards, towards division and intolerance. Maybe we need a day like MLK Day more than ever.

These are three things I want to do with my family on a day dedicated to memorializing a great man.

Continue Reading…

It’s the end of another week, and I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to a three day weekend! With a baby in the house, my energy levels are definitely lower by Thursday evening than they were on Sunday evening. (I’m pretty sure I took two naps yesterday after work.)

Ah, but in the midst of all this, there are a lot of good things I was able to be challenged, encouraged and fueled by. Here are a few of them…

In My Wishlist

My pal, Sonny Lemmons posted these “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirts, and I’m pretty jealous. I’m just now becoming aware that there is an actual movement of people who want people to stop saying that Dad is “babysitting,” but these shirts are pretty amazing.

On My “Told You So” List

The week’s biggest “told you so” has to be the story of Alex Malarkey, whose story became The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Well, it turns out he didn’t go to heaven, it was all made up, and he now has some rather remarkable words for the likes of LifeWay and other Christian businesses who profit from this kind of pseudo-spirituality. To be honest, I am surprised that LifeWay and the people aligned with them, who often act as the guardians of orthodoxy and biblical purity, would set aside their convictions so easily for the opportunity to sell hundreds of thousands of books…

…Then again, maybe I’m not surprised.

In My Blog Reader

Finally in my blog reader, a couple of writers seemed to have some similar thoughts as I did this week.

Sarah Bessey laments the closing of Target stores across Canada (though she admits that she never shopped there either) and draws a lot of interesting parallels between the big box retailer and churches (who, as I would say, confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom of church.)

Anne Marie Miller tells us why the American church, contrary to popular belief, is not going to hell in a handbasket. It’s just that church might look very different from what the “kingdom” establishment wants it to look like.

And on another side of things, Lore Ferguson discusses a tension that I have felt my entire adult life – ambition for quiet Christians. Finally, Kristen at We Are That Family discusses something that I am trying to embrace – the fact that most of our biggest moments are actually very small moments.

That’s it for me this week. See you on the other side of the weekend!